I am currently a resident physician undergoing my training in family medicine. For this program, I am required to do a research project, so of course my research was about kayaking. For my research, I decided to survey whitewater kayakers about various safety habits when they kayak, including their level of medical training (none, swiftwater rescue, basic first aid, EMT, WFR, RN, physician, etc.), whether or not they carried a first aid or safety kit, what items they usually carried in their first aid or safety kit, their preferred paddling group size, whether or not they have sustained personal injuries kayaking and if this has led them to pursue more medical training, and whether or not they have paddled under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
This was basically a pilot study that was offered to 299 whitewater kayakers of all skill levels from multiple geographic areas with a 57.5% response rate. I won’t bore you with all the details, but 79% of the respondents said they paddled in remote areas often or sometimes, 70% of respondents said they were certified in at least basic first aid, but only 40% of respondents reported they always carry a first aid kit.
Since my results, I’ve been thinking of ways to improve this. Considering the barriers that paddlers may face, the most likely I have come up with are weight and knowledge of what to carry. For this reason, I thought it would be helpful to write a post explaining what items I think are the most important and why. This way, only having the essential items will help save you weight and space in your already challenging to portage kayak.
My first aid kit contains two separate parts: first aid gear and safety/survival gear. The first aid section is for medical needs and the safety/survival gear is for if my group is caught on the river longer than planned.
Pain pills (Hydrocodone/Oxycodone)
Water purification tablets
Again, this is just my opinion and a baseline of what I like to carry. Depending on both your comfort level and the duration/location of your trip, your list may differ. Your kit may contain many more or different items that you feel are essential. I also left off many useful items that may take up unnecessary space or weight. For example, splints are very useful if someone sprains or fractures something, but are heavy and take up space. More useful may be taking a basic wilderness first aid course to learn how to use things in the environment as splints, such as breakdown paddles or trees.
In summary, first aid and survival kits are an important part of paddling safety. I hope this post has been beneficial in the important items to carry as well as realizing how small and light a kit can be. Be safe out there!